The biggest upsets in PGA Championship history
Nobody will ever top John Daly at Crooked Stick unless something weird happens this weekend at Oak Hill. We rank the 10 greatest PGA Championship upsets of all time.
The morning temperature in Rochester, N.Y., for the start of the PGA Championship on Thursday is expected to be in the 30s. That right there is an upset for everyone who had planned on wearing short sleeves when they begin play in the season’s second major golf tournament.
Hey, Mother Nature plays a part in these events, and this will be the last PGA Championship held in a cold-weather climate. When the PGA of America moved this annual event to the spring, Oak Hill Country Club had already been scheduled as the 2023 host.
And, no, there are no golfers from Antarctica competing. So throw that gambling strategy out with the morning trash.
Ranking the Top 10 Biggest Upsets in PGA Championship history
- Shaun Micheel, 2003
Micheel taught himself how to play golf in Memphis as a youngster, after his parents bought a home on a golf course. He turned pro in 2002 but barely held on to his tour card. Going into the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, Micheel was ranked 169th in the world and was still without a win on tour after more than 160 attempts, but he played solid golf on the final day to win by two strokes. Micheel played in almost 400 PGA Tour events, with the 2003 PGA Championship his lone win.
- Y.E. Yang, 2009
Going into the final round, Tiger Woods had a two-stroke lead over Yang. Woods, a 14-time major winner and champion of 65 tour events, had never lost a major after leading through 54 holes. Yang was ranked 110th in the world and had to regain his tour card through qualifying after he finished 157th on the money list in 2008. Woods’ two-shot lead disappeared by the time they hit the tee box on the fifth hole, and the Korean took the lead when he chipped in for an eagle on the 14th. Tiger couldn’t claw it back, and a closing birdie from Yang, followed by a bogey by Woods, gave the underdog a victory by three strokes.
- Padraig Harrington, 2008
The Irishman overcame a three-stroke deficit on Sunday at Oakland Hills en route to his third major title. Harrington arrived at the 18th able to secure a win with a par. With Sergio Garcia two strokes back, Harrington calmly canned an 18-foot par putt to become just the fourth European player to win a PGA Championship title.
- Bob Tway, 1986
Tway arrived at the final hole at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio, tied with Greg Norman. His approach shot landed in a greenside bunker. As Norman watched from the green, Tway connected for a birdie from the bunker, and Norman missed long on a following attempt that could have forced a playoff. Tway’s bunker blast was truly the shot of a lifetime.
- John Mahaffey, 1978
Mahaffey had a seven-stroke deficit with just 14 holes to play in the final round at Oakmont Country Club, but Tom Watson stumbled down the stretch, and there was a three-way tie with Watson and Jerry Pate. On the second extra hole, Mahaffey dropped a 12-foot birdie putt to win his only major title in dramatic fashion.
- Keegan Bradley, 2011
After a triple bogey on No. 15 in the final round, Keegan Bradley trailed leader Jason Dufner by five shots. But the 25-year-old PGA Tour rookie responded with birdies on the next two holes, and when Dufner bogeyed three of his final four holes in regulation, the two went to a three-hole playoff. Bradley again birdied No. 16 and notched his first major title with a par on 18.
- Martin Kaymer, 2010
Unfortunately for Kaymer, his first major victory will be remembered just as much for Dustin Johnson throwing away a chance to win by unknowingly grounding his club in one of Whistling Straits' countless bunkers on the 72nd hole. The penalty kept him from going up against Kaymer and Bubba Watson in a playoff, which the German won.
- Vijay Singh, 2004
Whistling Straits' first go-round as a major-championship venue also provided plenty of excitement. After three days of relatively easy scoring, Sunday turned into a survival test as big-name contenders like Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Justin Leonard, and Darren Clarke all shot over par. Meanwhile, 54-hole leader Vijay Singh didn't make a birdie in regulation on his way to a 76, but he made one on the first hole of a three-man playoff that he eventually won over Leonard and Chris DiMarco.
- David Toms, 2001
Before Phil Mickelson began winning major championships, he was best known for his heartbreaking losses. This definitely ranks up there with the toughest, when it appeared he could be headed for a playoff after Toms laid up short of the water on the par-4 18th. But Toms hit a wedge to 10 feet and drained the par putt to capture his only major. Before that, it was an unlikely ace by Toms with a 5-wood late on Saturday that helped put him in position to win.
- John Daly, 1991
After he finished 12th at the 1990 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, Daly went from unknown to national hero in the space of just 96 hours. He wasn’t even expected to play at Crooked Stick, where he was the ninth and final alternate. But Nick Price had to drop out because his wife was due to go into labor. Daly took off for a seven-hour drive to the course, and Big Bertha and Callaway Golf subsequently became household names.
Parameters of Rankings
Everyone’s top 10 is different, but what we went for here were memorable moments and drama, just as we did in our Masters predictions column. Hopefully, there will be plenty more this weekend … and the weather will get better.
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